Nigeria Airways

By Dele Sobowale

“The greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising each time you fall.” Chief Obafemi Awolowo,     ,VBQ,VBQ p 55

I am sure most people must by now have assumed that the VANGUARD BOOKOF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, has no Nigerian entry; that it is all about foreign insights. But, Awolowo’s observation on success repeated above offers the best introduction to success yet to be achieved in the modern era; and which many people think will never occur. By that I mean the take-off of the national flagbearer – NIGERIAAIR. 

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The proposed national airline, which will replace the defunct Nigerian Airways, represents the triumph of audacity of hope over previous experience. No transport company started by the Nigerian public sector – federal, state orlocal government – has ever been a commercial success. Sooner or later, they have been liquidated after the government entity funding it ran out of patience with the corruption and the drain on resources.

Even the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, tried its hands on running a transport company. It barely survived the tenure of Adams Oshiomhole who was President when it was launched.Those demanding an audited account of its operations found themselves running for cover. It has since gone bankrupt.

 Nigerian Airways, under various governments – civilian and military – was in a class of its own form is management and corruption. Nobody, who was the Managing Director, Executive or non-Executive Director, Senior Manager can ever be proud of his dis-service to Nigeria.The airline was a nuisance in every airport abroad; and the checking-in counters were frequently set so far apart from other airlines. Passengers,usually Nigerians, and airline officers were disgraceful. I stopped patronising it after two flights abroad.

Lost luggage was a frequent occurrence; and despite Civil Aviation regulations governing that aspect of operations, Nigerian Airways seldom paid for lost luggage – irrespective of what the contents are. If the international operations were terrible, the domestic aspect was far worse. At home, it enjoyed a monopoly. Altogether, it was a sad experience. It was a great relief to travellers when the Babangida regime liberalised air travel by licencing private airlines. Those who did not experience the horrors of Nigerian Airways can never know the debt of gratitude air travellers owe to IBB.

 I have also not forgotten ourmisadventure in respect of VirginNigeria – our partnership with the BritishAirline which ended in a fiasco.

 So, with such a dismal record,readers must be wondering why NigeriaAir can be so promising to me.

ENTHUSIASM IS ALWAYS A STRONG MOTIVATION

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1802-1883, VBQ p 49.

 Nigeria Air became front page newsonce again recently when the Honourable Minister for Aviation announced thatthe airline will take off in April 2022. Since then, the announcement had beenreceived with cynicism, scepticism, hostility and serious disbelief generally.But, I will like to offer a different view for four reasons – tenacity, hope, economics and national pride – as the basis of my support for the Minister.They are all inextricably linked. Let me explain.

The Minister had presented the proposal three times before and had been turned down. He persisted until he received the approval of the Federal Executive Council , FEC. Obviously, he had fallen three times, just as Nigeria failedtwice before to fly a national flag, but he never gave up. As Awo said, he gotup again three times. That, to me, is highly commendable. Only people who, likeme, had tried selling life insurance policies can understand how it feels to beturned down a dozen times on Monday and still dress up on Tuesday to go to workand face the same ordeal. I admire his tenacity. It is not easy to bepersistent when you believe you are right and most others around you think youare wrong. I always give the person blessed with perseverance the benefit ofdoubt. Even the Wright brothers who started mankind on the Age of Aviationcrashed at least fifteen contraptions before taking to the air on December 17,1903 and sent humans soaring higher than eagles. Had they been deterred bydoubters, people might still be trekking six months from Kanoto Lagos. TheMinister has my support to try again, and again, and again…

More on that in part two of this series..

CONCESSIONING NIGERIAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS

“What is worth doing is worth doing well.”

 Just as I strongly support the Nigeria Airproject, I also endorse the decision of the Federal Government to concessionairports. Perhaps, it is important to add that return of toll gates is longoverdue. Nigeriamust be the only majour country in the world where expressways are constructedat public expense without any plan to recover the investment. 

If Singapore haddone something as stupid as that Lee Kuan Yew would never have written his bookFROM THIRD WORLD TO FIRST IN ONE GENERATION. Singapore would still be amongfailed nations. Cost recovery for services rendered is essential for nationsnot intending to be perpetual beggars asking for debt forgiveness. We mustrespect ourselves.

Respecting ourselves, however,starts with reserving certain tasks, however difficult, to be undertakenstrictly by us. This is particularly important when the task involves ournational security. It is doubtful if one can find a single airport in Russia, China,Iran or North Koreawhich is being managed by foreigners. There is an obvious reason for that. Thesecurity risks are so overwhelming that superiority of technology, know-how,service delivery, possessed by foreigners can never induce those nations, amongothers, to hand them to others to manage.

Nigeria’s four international airports – Abuja, Kano, Lagos,Portharcourt — listed for concessioning constitute the heart of our aviationsector today. They also are strategically placed geographically to serve theformer three regions and the Middle Belt. Their geographical locations, whichnow attract foreign interests, could become disadvantageous to the country ifthey fall into the hands of other nationals. We should not make the mistake ofthinking that nations which are friendly today will remain so for ever. As theimmortal Nelson Mandela, had reminded us: “time is longer than rope”. We cannotguarantee the friendship for ever. That is why we cannot concede our airport tonon-nationals.

 I am not a share holder of anycompany likely to bid for control of the airports. Most Nigerians are also notinvestors in the enterprises. We are all shareholders in Nigeria. Weshould all want decisions to be made in the best interest of our country. Thisis one issue on which we can all unite to ensure that the best decision is madein the interest of this generation and generations unborn.

I have been reliably informedthat the Kano Chamber of Commerce, KCC, isalready making efforts to ensure that the Kano International Airport is conceded tothem. I heartily endorse their sense of patriotism; and it will be a greatpleasure to talk to those behind that initiative; in order for all of us to,for once, work together as Nigerians to achieve a glorious objective. I havenot been told of any similar effort in the Eastern zone. I sincerely hope thatour brothers there will not allow the Portharcourt International Airport to fall into thewrong hands. That will be a great disservice to the people if the leaderscannot take the initiative to hold it…

To be continued later..

ATTAH PAYS TRIBUTE TO URANTA

“Blessed are the peacemakers” according to the Holy Bible. Late TonyUranta was one of the few Nigerians who understood that lasting peace withoutjustice is impossible. He developed the extremely rare skill of pursuingjustice for the people of the NigerDelta while at the same time advocating for non-violent engagement. Hiscontributions to the fight for a fair deal for the people of the NigerDelta will never be forgotten.”

Obong (Dr) Victor Attah, Former Governor Akwa Ibom State.

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